First anthropology field work experience in the Callejón de Huaylas 1984

T he following is an excerpt from Patricia J. Hammer´s first attempt at ethnography in Carhuaz.

In 1984 I came to Peru from the University of California to study Anthropology at the Catholic University in Lima. Older women in the community warmly received me into the community, stopping to greet me with the traditional pounding on the back form of salutation among kinsmen. Although there were limitations on our initial interactions due to my minimal proficiency in Quechua, communication transpired despite my verbal handicap. Elderly women took the time to pause and chat along the road or in the plaza. Often they told me of health problems they or family members were suffering, asking my diagnosis and whether I could procure medicines to relieve the symptoms.

Within my first few days in Shilla, I arrived at the crossroads in the early morning to see people huddled together against the cold with bundles of goods, waiting for a truck to carry them to market in the provincial capital of Carhuaz. Doña Andrea was sitting across the way on her daughter’s doorstep. She smiled when she saw me and motioned me to approach her. At her invitation I joined the group and closely observed morning socializing. Initially villagers were keenly aware of my presence and much teasing and many states of amazement and curiosity were directed toward me. At this time Doña Andrea protected me in a sense by explaining my presrence to the locals and by openly affiliating with me in the public realm.

Doña Andrea is a well-respected figure in Shilla. She possesses a strong character accompanied by an authoritative demeanor. I spent time with her, assisting her in her daily activities of herding, weaving, washing clothes, shelling corn, etc. She occasionally sought me out in regard to special tasks or emergencies, such as chasing stray rabbits and guinea pigs.

For the following reasons I am inclined to think that Doña Andrea treated me in the manner of an affinal, or potentially affinal relative. Aside from her constant joking that I should marry her three-year-old grandson, my participation with her in carrying out daily chores placed me in a position most often filled by the daughter-in—law. She inquired as to the whereabouts of my mother, and in reaction to the great distance, she remarked on her own temporary separation from her sons, saying, “and here I am missing my son who is only as far away as Huaraz.” In her son’s absence she slept at her daught-inlaw’s house to keep her company. Mirroring the same type of relationship, and showing maternal concern for me, she mentioned that she would like to sleep in the linguist’s adobe house, too, so that I would not have to be alone at night. As is the custom among relatives, upon bringing her animal’s home from pasture, she would drop by and visit me, accompanied by her grandchildren. She nsisted that I accompany her to the plaza during social functions. She was careful to explain to me in Quechua how to perform certain tasks and the purpose of preparatory processes, such as the shelling, sorting and drying of maize for its assorted uses. And, on Mother’s Day she expected a gift from me.

Another older woman who frequently visited me was Doña Paula who lived several houses away towards the plaza. She often came to converse and sell me fresh eggs. She inquired about my intentions in the community and other aspects of my life. Like other older women in the village, Paula initially addressed me as niña, reflecting my unsocialised state. I spoke a minimum of Quechua, did not wear a pollera – the traditional skirt, I was unfamiliar with cultural norms and I was unmarried and childless. All of these aspects may be associated with not yet fully socialised girls. Furthermore, using the term niña distinctly placed me outside the social network of the community, for china is the term most used by older women in referring to young girls.

My naivety of local meanings, evidenced by my behavior, induced people to explain to me commonly understood concepts. For example, an older woman noting my ignorance, explained to me that wandering around alone invites danger to an individual in the way of susto – magical fright, especially in accord with passing by isolated ravines or streams where spirits are known to lurk.

Overall, I would conclude that the interactions I had in Shilla were with certain kinds of individuals who were either marginal in themselves, or with those who had access to peripheral realms, such as village officials and men familiar with the outside world, children as not yet fully socialized beings, as well as older women whose statuses were established and who risked nothing in associating with me. As my time progressed in the community, my status as a young, unmarried woman was confirmed and became the focal point of my interactions. Older women were apparently provoked by my behavior to advise me about proper conduct in accordance with my age and gender, reflecting their expectations of such an individual within the framework of the traditional values of Shilla.

One night during the fiesta de San Juan, in my last days in Shilla, Doña Paula called me over to watch the celebration in front of the town council building. She offered me protection against the cold with her beneath the warmth of her woolen lliklla (woven blanket). When I asked her who the strangers were in the plaza, all highlanders but their faces unfamiliar to me, she replied that they were mishtis – outsiders. I inquiredif I too, was a mishti, to which she replied negatively, and declared with smiling certainty, that I was a shillapina – a woman of Shilla.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

*

Cracks in Peru’s tallest mountain are caused by climate change, say researchers

A research team spent five days ascending the dizzying heights of Peru’s tallest mountain on a scientific expedition to record […]

Jesse Galganov´s father praises local police and indicates not to give up

Canadian citizen Jesse Galganov has been missing for 51 days and sadly, the search for him has not yet resulted […]

Polish family of mountaineer who died in Ojos del Salado thanks rescue guide from Huaraz

Agnieszka Cruz-Koniak, daughter of the Polish mountaineer who died on Volcano Ojos del Salado (located on the Argentina-Chile border) earlier […]

Valery Rozov dies after a failed BASE jump attempt in the Himalayas

Rozov was an internationally renowned BASE jumper, a sport reserved for only the most fearless, whereby one free falls from […]

Rubbish on the rise on popular Santa Cruz Trek

The Santa Cruz Trek is slowly edging its way into the realms of Machu Picchu and Colca Canyon as one […]

Ancash resident and Peruvian actress Claudia Dammert (68) passes away

Beloved actress and devoted resident of the Ancash region, Claudia Dammert, sadly passed away this week. She was 68, and […]

Spanish Red Cross to complete humanitarian help project in Huarmey

In the beginning of March of this year, the province of Huarmey became one of the most affected places in […]

GPS signal indicates Jesse left Huaraz and went to Caraz for Santa Cruz area according to police

No breakthrough yet but some advances after weeks of silence. During his weekly meeting with the press, the head of […]

Trail runner Hernán Henostroza Gamarra from Huaraz wins 38k Misti Sky Race in Arequipa

The youngster from Huaraz just keeps on winning. In May of this year, Hernán Henostroza Gamarra managed to win the […]

How on earth could Jesse Galganov just vanish in Huaraz without a trace?

One month on and the police apparently have absolutely nothing on Jesse Galganov´s disappearance. The two video cameras which captured […]

Travelling at 3000m and the effects of altitude in Huaraz

Four years ago Lionel Messi famously threw up in a football match against Bolivia; Bolivia’s stadium is at 3800m, and […]

18-year-old female Canadian mountaineer rescued from Mount Alpamayo

Eighteen-year-old Canadian Sara Murphy, a mountaineer who was reported missing on October 29th in the Alpamayo mountain range of the […]

Administrator of Kame House states to fully cooperate: ¨Jesse Galganov never arrived at our establishment¨

Christopher Garcia Obregon, owner and administrator of Kame House Backpackers, the hostel where Jesse Galganov ostensibly stayed one night on […]

Where is Jesse Galganov? 10.000$ reward for tip that leads to his finding

Journalists of Peruvian broadcaster America TV travelled to Huaraz to find out more about the disappearance of the 22-year-old Jesse […]

Language Centre of the Casa de Guías to organise talent show

Because of the celebration of the anniversary of the Association of Mountain Guides of Peru (AGMP), and being part of […]

INAIGEM announces cooperation agreement and construction of Museum of Andean Mountains

The Ohio State University in the US and the INAIGEM (National Institute of Research on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems) signed […]

Update: Two rescue teams have headed out to search for Canadian tourist

The editor of The Huaraz Telegraph has spoken to the head of the Tourist Police in Huaraz, Major Godofredo Vargas […]

Update: Still no traces of Jesse Galganov, local authorities all informed

Sadly, there are still no traces of Jesse Galganov, the Canadian citizen who went missing at the end of September. […]